Tuesday, May 10, 2016

April 2016 Book Review

Rating System
5- Loved it! All the feels and flails. New favorite
4- Really liked it. Would recommend
3- Decent/solid read.
2- Would not recommend. Barely finished
1-Didn't like, DNF. Gave book away.

Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan

Rating: 3

Songs for the Missing begins with the suspenseful pace of a thriller, following an Ohio community's efforts to locate a young woman who has gone missing. It soon deepens into an affecting portrait of a family trying desperately to hold onto itself and the memory of a daughter whose return becomes increasingly unlikely. Stark and honest, this is an intimate account of what happens behind the headlines of a very American tragedy.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It started out really strong and I was super into it. I was trying to figure out whodunit and then about halfway through, the book totally lost momentum. The last half of the book kind of reminded me of Everything I Never Told You, which I also had pretty meh feeling about. Without giving too much away, I was pretty disappointed with the conclusion of the disappearance. 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Rating: 2
Classic 2/5

Robert Louis Stevenson’s masterpiece of the duality of good and evil in man’s nature sprang from the darkest recesses of his own unconscious—during a nightmare from which his wife awakened him, alerted by his screams. More than a hundred years later, this tale of the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll and the drug that unleashes his evil, inner persona—the loathsome, twisted Mr. Hyde—has lost none of its ability to shock. Its realistic police-style narrative chillingly relates Jekyll’s desperation as Hyde gains control of his soul—and gives voice to our own fears of the violence and evil within us. Written before Freud’s naming of the ego and the id, Stevenson’s enduring classic demonstrates a remarkable understanding of the personality’s inner conflicts—and remains the irresistibly terrifying stuff of our worst nightmares. 

Even though this book was pretty slim, it dragged. I actually had high hopes for Jekyll and Hyde but I just couldn't get into it. I was interested to learn more background of the Jekyll and Hyde story and the whole persona thing that goes along with it is a distant cousin to the actual story. I can see how this could have come from a dream. I think I'm going to try and listen to my next classic on audio.

The Night Eternal (Strain Trilogy Book 3) Guillermo Del Toro

Rating: 3.5

The Night Eternal begins where The Strain and The Fall left off: with the last remnants of humankind enslaved by the vampire masters in a world forever shrouded by nuclear winter.  Still, a small band of the living fights on in the shadows, in the final book of the ingenious dark fantasy trilogy that Newsweek says is, “good enough to make us break that vow to swear off vampire stories.” 

I thought The Night Eternal was a great conclusion to the trilogy. I liked how this one was two years after where The Fall ended. Read my reviews for the first two books here and here.  There was a particular section of the book dealing with a zoo that was pretty emotional because of the animal stuff. Sometimes I like when books wrap up with a nice little bow at the end and this one did. The ending was sad but there was no other way for it to end. There was a nice epilogue and you weren't left with questions. I would have liked to have seen a chapter from The Master at the end. I think that would have added a nice alternate pov.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Rating: 4
It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.
Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley's Candies. Though her handcrafted confections-rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds-are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.
Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby- a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.
Sydney's daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to...if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?
When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

I've been a fan of Addison Allen since her first book, Garden Spells. Her books tend to be on the lighter side, chick lit if you will (even though I hate that term). I love the magical and enchanting world she builds. This was a loose sequel to Garden Spells but you could totally read them separately and it not be an issue. I read Garden Spells quite a few years ago and vaguely remember what happened and it didn't effect my experience with First Frost. In a world of the Waverley's where magic blends with reality, you can't help but want to experience a magical talent of your own.

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

Rating: 2.5

An eleven-year-old heroine tells her unforgettable story with honesty, perceptivity, humor, and unselfconscious heroism.

Even though this is a pretty popular and loved book, I found it hard to really get into. The writing style combined with the young girls thoughts, plus switching back and forth between past and present was just too much for me. I thought Gibbons did well capturing a young person's understanding but there was just too many conflicting things going on. I related to Ellen Foster's optimism and her resistance to letting life get in the way. She had a lot of shitty things happen to her in her life and most people would have played the victim but not her. I think that was one of the positive things to take away from this book.

Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler

Rating: 3.5

 Young couples gather to participate in an annual "chainsaw party," cutting down trees for firewood in anticipation of the winter. A group of men spend a weekend hunting for mushrooms in the wilderness where they grew up and where some still find themselves trapped. An aging environmentalist takes out his frustration and anger on a singular, unsuspecting target. One woman helps another get revenge against a man whose crime extends far beyond him to an entire community. Together, the ten stories in this dazzling, surprising collection evoke a landscape that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has traveled the back roads and blue highways of America, and they completely capture the memorable characters who call it home.

I think we can all agree that Butler is a master storyteller. I didn't love this as much as Shotgun Lovesongs but for a short story collection, I thought it was a pretty solid read. I noticed a strong fire theme running throughout the stories. I think it says a lot when you finish a story and want to know more. My favorite story was Chainsaw Soiree. I also liked Morels. My least favorite story was Western Counties. Again, things with animals bother me way more than human abuse. Also for those that have read this, do you think the guy really did untie the rope in the title Beneath the Bonfire story?

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

Rating: 1.5
Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car. She is headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember what’s happened, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and Anais’s school uniform is covered in blood.
Raised in foster care from birth and moved through twenty-three placements before she even turned seven, Anais has been let down by just about every adult she has ever met. Now a counter-culture outlaw, she knows that she can only rely on herself. And yet despite the parade of horrors visited upon her early life, she greets the world with the witty, fierce insight of a survivor.  
Anais finds a sense of belonging among the residents of the Panopticon – they form intense bonds, and she soon becomes part of an ad hoc family. Together, they struggle against the adults that keep them confined. When she looks up at the watchtower that looms over the residents though, Anais knows her fate: she is an anonymous part of an experiment, and she always was. Now it seems that the experiment is closing in.

When I read the summary of this book, I figured it was right up my alley but omg, this book was written in phonetic, English/Irish slang and it was so annoying. I had to keep "fixing" it in my head so I could understand what the people were saying. Words like didnae, intae and urnay were common. For this reason alone, I found it hard to engage and gave up about half way through. I just didn't care.  

Love It: First Frost & Beneath the Bonfire
Leave It:The Panopticon

Life According to Steph


  1. I enjoy your ratings because I speak in half points/half stars as well.

  2. Western Counties was really difficult to stomach. I liked Morels too.

    I thought Jekyll/Hyde was awful.

    I always enjoy SAA books. I like a pop of the mystical every now and then.

  3. I struggled through In Western Counties, too. Morels was definitely a good one.

  4. omg i hate when books do that with like phonetic slang. i get why they do but i just don't think it works.. rarely, anyway. i'm like you, i have to keep 'fixing' it and then if i get into it (like outlander), i start talking like that which is super embarrassing hahaha. good to hear about that first frost book, i just bought garden spells the other day and i'm excited to read it!

  5. I've been wanting to read a Sarah Addison Allen book! First Front sounds good. :)

  6. I've been meaning to look into the Strain trilogy and hearing that ends well, I may need to start it soon. First Front also sounds good and I've added it to my TBR.

    1. I thought the Strain trilogy was a decent series. I listened to them which I know is a different experience than reading. Have you watched the series?

  7. I just finished First Frost today and I 100% agree with your review. I loved Garden Spells but it's been a few years since I read it, but I wasn't confused by anything in First Frost. I really loved how we learned more about Claire and Sydney's mother. And I really loved Bay, her parts of the story were my favorite!

  8. Beneath the Bonfire is on my "To Read" list, but I know I'll have to be in the right mood for it. I don't always love short story collections.

    Songs for the Missing actually sounds really great to me. Sometimes I'm hesitant to add books to my list when someone says that it loses momentum, but when you said parts of it reminded you of Everything I Never Told You, I was like, "Okay, I'm definitely adding it!" I know you didn't love that book, but it was one of my favorites last year.